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  • I don't believe this problem is confined to the English language. However it is not helped when different English speaking nations decide on their own types of pronounciation for words. Often words are spelt identically but pronounced differently.

    Patron - Is this pronounced "PaYtron" or "Pat-tron" - well not many would use the second one. Until you then look at Patronise (UK spelling), in the US you would say "PaYtronize" and in the UK "Pat-tronize". Whereas Patron on it's own, both UK and US would usually say "PaYtron".

    Oregano - is it "Or - ri - gar - no" or "Or - reg - a - no" - again, depends where you are.

    Not just the written word though, the spoken word is worse. How about read?

    "I read the book!" - (red)
    "What books do you read?" (reed)
    "That book is read." - you mean you "red" it or did you mean the cover colour was red???

    Road or Rowed?

    It is all about context I guess, and all comes from experience. I can appreciate why the question is frustrating!

    This is a very quick thread but points at a possible more wide ranging reason:
  • This is actually an issue in hundreds of languages. At the very least, most of the examples of english words with pronunciation inconsistancies have different spellings; to and two, there and their, so and sow, etc. Furthermore, these tend to be short and simple words. Longer and more complex words tend not to be confused with one another.

    Languages with glyph based alphabets, such as Japanese, have their own idiosyncrasies. For instance, the character 先 (pronounced 'saki' by itself, or 'sen' in a compound word) has two pronunciations and can be used in a number of words.

    先 - saki - ahead
    先生 - sen'sei - teacher
    先月 - sen'gatsu - last month

    While my knowledge of the language is limited, I suppose it may be somewhat easier if one were to be taught that each character has many meanings from a young age. For persons such as myself, learning it as a second language, some facets of the language are baffling. Such as how this jumble makes the words purple and violet, the term Lithospermum erythrorhizon (species of gromwell) and a type of soy sauce: 紫.

    It does appear that, like english, one would not confuse a more complex character. By context, one would not confuse soy sauce from small shrub. With simpler terms (先), seeing as Japanese does not provide spaces between words in written text, one could be forgiven for confusing 'ahead' with 'past'.

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